Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Jane Cooks (Everything Austen II Challenge)

As part of last year's Everything Austen Challenge, I'd put down that I was going to read and make something from The Jane Austen Cookbook by Maggie Black and Deirdre Le Faye (McClelland & Stewart, 2002.  128 pgs.) and a few other Jane cookbooks. (Here's that blog post.) I at last read them, but no baking occurred.

And so-- As part of the Everything Austen Challenge this go 'round, I'd put on my list that I was to actually bake something from The Jane Austen Cookbook (TJAC from now on.)

And bake I did, friends.  Let's begin.

When I'd read TJAC, I'd made some photocopies of about five recipes that I thought I could tackle.  Nothing too complicated and I mostly chose from recipes that were actually from Martha Lloyd's cookbook. (Who was Martha Lloyd?  A good friend of JA's that lived with the family at Chawton Cottage and after Jane's death married Jane's brother Frank after the death of his first wife during childbirth.) I chose recipes from her cookbook because while the recipes have been adapted for the modern kitchen, I thought it rather fun that JA might have eaten these recipes some 200 years ago.

In early June I made Martha Lloyd's Macaroni recipe from pg 49.  Think macaroni with a cream sauce.  Yes, real cream.  It was pretty good and tasted somewhat like a carbonara sauce less the egg that carbonara contains.  Freshly ground pepper to top the macaroni was a nice addition.  (Forgot to take pictures of this one.)

In early July, I made Martha's Ratafia Cakes recipe from pg. 125.  When read through, this recipe sounded something like the simple meringue cookies I am used to around Christmas-time.  The difference here being that there were ground almonds and a teaspoon of orange liqueur in them.  I purchased baker's sugar (superfine sugar) as the recipe suggested and began.  Essentially, one whips egg whites with the orange liqueur until stiff, adds the sugar and almonds and bakes.  I found that the liqueur made the egg whites not want to become stiff. Or maybe I didn't beat long enough, but I did beat for what felt like forever and I do know what stiff is....so, a little flat they were, but tasty nevertheless!  Next time, I will whip eggs to stiff and then add orange liqueur and beat in for a few seconds to see if this remedies the problem.  Pictures are of them going into the oven and coming out.  Rave reviews from Dear Hubby on this one!  They were a bit addicting--the almond is a nice touch to the meringue like texture.  They were light and hollow inside, and about as close to a 'cookie' as JA may have gotten (rather than a cake).

Last week I made Rout Drop Cakes.  This recipe noted as from Maria Rundell, the 1806 edition of her cookbook--a cookbook of the day etc.  TJAC says that these cakes are "pleasant with a glass of wine or a cup of coffee at mid-morning or in the evening.  They were easy-to-eat party cookies on a Georgian evening tea-table, too" (pg 125).

Essentially, these little ditties are raisin or currant scones.  They were easy to mix up. I used raisins rather than currants because I couldn't quite determine how old my currants were (they were thrown in the trash with a small shudder!).  Curious, too, the recipe contained 1/2 tsp. each of orange juice and rose-water.  (For the rose-water, I substituted plain old tap-water, not wanting to deal with trying to figure out where to find it or how to make it myself....) It also called for 1 tsp. white wine or sherry (I used some white zinfandel that was already open in my frig) and 1 tsp. brandy (I actually had that for baking, can you believe it?!?).   So, a lot of little flavor additions but really, they tasted like scones.  Plain and simple.  Delightful with some lemon curd or Devonshire cream.   (Of which I made for my bookclub's tea party, see blog entry here.)

And the question remains--would I make any of these recipes again?  Macaroni--no.  I'd rather have real cream, aka serious caloric intake, in another recipe not this one.  Ratafia Cakes--yes.  I'd like to see if I can get them a bit more round rather than flat and they were pretty tasty.  Rout Drop Cakes--maybe.  They were a bit dry.  The jury is still out on that one.

Are there JAC recipes in line for the future?  Maybe.  I have Martha Lloyd's bread budding recipe and her Gingerbread Cakes recipe.  The bread pudding is a might.  The Gingerbread Cakes recipe is a "probably not" given the review of the recipe from the lovely blogging ladies at Austentacious.  These ladies declared them to taste like "dried out cookie dough" and said they aren't worth the time if one has options like we do now (as opposed to JA's time).  (In other words, go for something much more tasty!!)

That said, if anyone would like the recipes, I'll gladly share them.  Do ask. And again, Check out the tea party picts, we went all out!

I Capture the Castle Tea Party

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
St. Martin's Griffin, 1948 (1998 republished), 343 pgs.

My bookclub read I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith for the month of July.  While originally published in 1948, this book is truly timeless! There were times one wasn't sure what decade the story took place in, so much was this story and its characters timeless.   The characters are ones to fall in love over and over again and is a beautiful coming of age story.  (Can you say Hallmark Hall of Fame Classic?)

Here's the description from the back of the book: "I Capture the Castle tells the story of seventeen-year-old Cassandra and her family, who live in not-so-genteel poverty in a ramshackle old English castle. Here she strives, over six turbulent months, to hone her writing skills. She fills three notebooks with sharply funny yet poignant entries. Her journals candidly chronicle the great changes that take place within the castle's walls, and her own first descent into love. By the time she pens her final entry, she has "captured the castle"--and the heart of the reader--in one of literature's most enchanting entertainments."

Is there an I Capture the Castle's JA tie-in?   You bet your buttered scones!  At one point Cassandra refers to she and her sister as much like the Bennet girls, Elizabeth and Jane, as they realize that marriage is their only option of survival in this world.

Because the book takes place in England and in a ramshackled ruin of a castle, my fellow book friend and Anglophile, SarahA and I hosted a tea party for our fabulous bookclub friends.  Now, it should be noted that SarahA and I have been finding all of the places in the Twin Cities metro area that offer High Tea and each year to celebrate our birthdays we go to a new establishment.  So what I'm saying is that we do tea.  And we do it well. Or at least we know how to do tea.  Or something.  Did I mention both of us studied abroad in the British Isles during college?  We even met up in Oxford for a quick afternoon for...pizza.  Don't ask.  We're not sure why we did pizza now either.  I think it was more about timing and catching a bus for me, but you get the idea.  True Anglophiles are we.

And so, here are pictures of our menu from our delightful tea party.  I, as per my usual, forgot to start taking photos until we were in mid course just about every course.  So do excuse the presentations of half-picked food. :)

1st Course:  Assorted Mini-Quiche

Ahem, store bought.  (But quite tasty.  Thank you, Archer Farms.)

Course 2:  Cranberry Orange Scones & Rout Drop Cakes

Cranberry Orange Scones recipe from author Marilyn Brant's monthly newsletter.  They were fabu! The recipe made what felt like a zillion and they were extremely rich.  Rout Drop Cakes from The Jane Austen CookbookSee more details about them in my blog entry here.

Course 2: Easy Devonshire Cream, Lemon Curd and Strawberry-Rhubarb Preserves.
Easy Devonshire Cream--very tasty!  Adapted it from the recipe at AllRecipes.com. I've made this one before and added more sugar and some vanilla this time around.  Much better!  Lemon Curd recipe from an unknown internet source--it's a microwave recipe and was actually quite easy.  A bit granular from the sugar, but highly recommended.  Preserves, store bought.

Course 3: Chicken Salad Sandwiches and Sweet & Savory Ham Sandwiches
Chicken salad sandwiches--basic chicken salad, but quite delightful.  Sweet & Savory Ham Sandwiches---OHMYGOSH!  They were to die for!  The original name for this tea sandwich was Ham & Apricot Tea Sandwiches, but as we used Strawberry-Rhubarb and not Apricot, I thought one couldn't really call them their original name. Here's the gist:  raisin swirl bread, one slice spread with Dijon mustard, the other with preserves and a slice of ham in between.  Cut crusts off.  This tea sandwich is going in my "I am so making those again (very soon if I can help it)" recipe pile.  Sources unknown for all tea sandwiches as SarahA found and made them (although I did help with assembly). 

Course 3: Asparagus & Prosciutto Tea Sandwiches and Cucumber Sandwiches
Asparagus and prosciutto--very good, bread a bit much.  Even though the recipe called for hearty bread, I'd say a thinner slice would do next time.  And why the heck don't I made cucumber sandwiches more often??  These were such a refreshing bit of heaven.  I think SarahA says she uses whatever cream cheese the spirit moves her to purchase.  This time it was flavored with chives and a bit of fresh dill.

Course 4: Cinnamon Sugar Cookies, Mini Cherry Cheesecakes and Double Chocolate Cupcakes.

The cinnamon sugar cookie recipe is a recipe I grew up with.  I think it might be one of my all time favorite recipes.  These cookies are so very good with tea or coffee.  They are great dipping cookies!  Mini Cherry Cheesecakes--are much easier to make than they appear.  I halved the recipe this time to only make a dozen and it worked pretty well. I thought the cheesecake portions were a bit small but they were refreshing as always.  And double chocolate cupcakes.  SarahA bought these and I don't know where from.  I only know they were quite deadly and one my go into chocolate shock after eating even just one.
Fabulous bookclubber friends.  Love you!
Yes, there were actual people at bookclub.  It wasn't just food.  Surprised aren't you?  :)  Hope you're hungry now!  I'm not and it's Tuesday already....